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Don’t Treat Protesters as Enemies, Says Samyukta Kisan Morcha

The farmers’ collective flayed the Madhya Pradesh government for the arrest of farmer leaders ahead of the Grameen Bandh on Feb 16.
Don’t Treat Protesters as Enemies, Says Samyukta Kisan Morcha

New Delhi : Ahead of the call for Grameen Bharat Bandh on February 16, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a collective of farmers organisations across the country, on Monday launched a scathing attack on the Madhya Pradesh government after the state police arrested farmers leaders and other activists under Section 151 of Criminal Procedure Code.

Police officials arrested and jailed All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader Ram Narayan Kuraria, his wife and AIDWA Leader Adv. Anjana Kuraria, Kisan Sangharsha samithi leader Adv. Aradhana Bhargava, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait) leader Anil Yadav, National Alliance of People’s Movement leader Rajkumar Sinha.

Badal Saroj, vice president, All India Kisan Sabha told NewsClick over the phone that the police officials have been indiscriminately arresting farmers leaders despite the fact that the SKM had so far not supported the ‘Delhi Chalo’ call by other farmers organisations.

“Our leader Ram Narayan Kuraria was addressing a meeting in Shivani district when he heard that his wife was arrested from his home in Jabalpur. Later, we witnessed that the Karnataka Express bound for Delhi was stopped for 45 minutes at Bhopal Railway station and people who were suspected of being farmers with green gamcha were compelled to disembark on the station and put under preventive detention,” he said.

Saroj said the MP government’s action was ‘‘arbitrary and reminds us that it did not learn anything from previous struggles. We held protests yesterday too. If our comrades are not freed soon, we will explore legal and agitational options.”

The farmers’ bodies in a joint action with central trade unions have called for total bandh on February 16 of rural activities and sectoral strikes. The farmers leaders have maintained that the supply and purchase of vegetables and other crops will remain suspended. Similarly, all the village shops, grain markets, vegetable markets, government and non government offices, rural industrial and service sector institutions  and enterprises in the private sector have been requested to remain closed. The Shops and establishments of towns  remain closed for the strike hours between 6 a.m and 4 p.m.

The bandh was called by farmers bodies to remind the Union government about its promise on implementing minimum support price (MSP) as per the Swaminathan Commission formula. Similarly, the farmers have been demanding a one-time loan waiver from all kinds of banking and non-banking institutions.

The trade unions have demanded scrapping of four labour codes which they accuse of dismantling several hard won rights including right to legal recourse. Similarly, the workers bodies have asked for Rs 26,000 as minimum salary to minimise the impact of inflation on the workforce. Both SKM and the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions also expressed their concerns over the Electricity (Amendment) Act 2021 which they allege will introduce rampant privatisation of public sector power generation and distribution companies.

On the February 13 ‘Tractor March’ by another farmers’ group, the SKM in a statement expressed its ‘‘strong discontent and anger against the dictatorial manner in which the Modi Government is handling the democratic mode of protests of the farmers by erecting iron nails, barbed wires and concrete barricades in the Highways in Punjab and Delhi borders.’’

The administration has imposed Section 144 in and around Delhi and Haryana and was diverting the traffic without any prior advisory to the public and creating an atmosphere of terror to frighten off the people, it said, adding that the Modi government was treating protesters ‘‘as if they are enemies of the country.”

‘‘We urge PM Modi to clarify why his Government is not ready for discussion with the platforms of farmers and workers in the context of the countrywide Grameen Bandh and Industrial/ Sectoral Strike call on 16th February 2024 on the demands of people's livelihood?” it said.

The repression by the Union and the state governments under the BJP will be rebuffed by the people, it said, adding that farmers and workers with the support of all sections of the people will ensure the February 16 Industrial/ Sectoral Strike and Grameen Bandh are ‘massive, vibrant  and successful.’

Meanwhile,leaders of SKM (non-political) and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, which are spearheading the February 13 Tractor March, said they were continuously receiving calls from Punjab and Haryana government officials to refrain from participating in the Delhi Chalo march. Delhi Police has erected concrete barriers with barbed wires and iron nails to prevent farmers from entering Delhi. Section 144 has been imposed in the whole of Delhi for 30 days by Delhi Police.

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